Some eye care professionals, after dropping managed care, find that a clinical focus can help them capture new patients and advertise additional value available to out-of-network patients. ‘

You may be wondering: Why?

After all, you want network freedom. You’re opening your practice up to prospective patients with all sorts of vision plans; now you're supposed to turn around and limit your focus with a practice niche?

How a practice niche can help out-of-network providers

Consider this: You can cast a wide net in a place where a catch is uncertain or you can toss a smaller net into a crowded shoal. Which do you choose?

When you decide to become out-of-network provider you lose access to insurers’ tools for connecting patients with contracted providers. You’re relying on what you can pull in with that net. Are you willing to spend more money on a larger net that may not reap the return you’re looking for?

That’s a question you need to ask when considering a clinical focus as an out-of-network provider. Targeted advertising toward a specialized group of patients can be more cost-effective than spending on a wide swath of potential patients who may never consider your practice. Additionally, a clinical focus allows you to delve into a practice area you have a personal interest in. This will set a foundation for stronger relationships with your patients. 

To be clear: The choice isn’t always binary. There are so many variables to consider in your community. A private practice in a smaller community may find it easy to capture plenty of patients. Meanwhile, a location in an urban center will have a plethora of competition to differentiate from. 

Consider your unique circumstances before concluding a clinical focus is right for your practice. 

            Let's take a closer look at why marketing a niche practice may be easier for out-of-network providers.

Why marketing your private practice is easier with a clinical focus

So, the circumstances are right for you to consider a clinical focus: You’re out-of-network or headed that way, you have competitors you need to differentiate from and a large pool of prospective patients in your area. How will a practice specialty help in the long run? 

Lower the cost of private practice marketing

Well, to start let’s set the stage: Imagine you’re running a paid advertising campaign on Google Adwords. You're paying per click for a certain keyword or set of them. And by doing so, you're ensuring you get prime real estate in the Google search results. 

The idea is to find a keyword that has low competition and enough monthly search volume to guarantee consistent clicks. Those keywords come at a lower cost. Identifying more affordable keywords can help you reduce the price per acquisition of a new patient. Here's what we found on Ubersuggest:

Eye care provider keyword cost per click

  • Optometrist: $4.42
  • Pediatric Optometrist: $5.12
  • Geriatric Optometrist: $1.96
  • Low Vision Therapy: $3.61
  • Neuro-optometry: $2.82
  • Sports vision therapy: $1.70

You can see that for most practice specialties, other than pediatric, the cost per click is much lower than it is for the all-encompassing “optometrist” keyword. This is a very specific example, but it’s a principle that’s true for much of the marketing you do: If you target advertising to a specific audience you’ll likely find yourself paying less per click or impression. 

Selling the value-added as an out-of-network provider

Your open-access practice is willing to work with all sorts of vision plans because people are in need of geriatric optometry, sports vision therapy and pediatric eye care regardless of their vision plans. 

But, an objection open access providers often run into is: Why should I pay more for your out-of-network care?

It can be a tough one to overcome without the right script. But that script can be easier to write when it’s built around a practice niche. 

For example, let’s say you’re a neuro-optometrist who treats patients with traumatic brain injuries:

When someone asks, why should I pay more for your practice you can tell them: “Our paraoptometric staff members are trained to care for patients with TBI in an environment tailored to their specific needs, such as low-light lobbies and exam rooms for those with light sensitivity. Additionally, we have the unique equipment necessary to ensure patients with TBI are properly cared for at our practice.” 

Sounds like it’s worth the additional cost, right?

                                          This obnoxiously cheesy porpoise GIF speaks to the point we're making:
                                                                            What's your purpose as a provider?

Finding your niche in private practice

There are myriad physical therapy niches, various eye specialists, types of behavioral health providers, etc. Regardless of your practice discipline, if you’re considering dropping managed care then there are specialties to consider. 

Whether you’re just starting a private practice or changing direction after realizing in-network isn’t for you, your specialty will require a unique approach. How you design your rooms, how you define your office culture and how you build out your marketing strategy will all depend on your niche. 

Figuring out your clinical focus

So, all of this is making sense so far? Great, now it’s time to do some work!

Eye doctors who choose a clinical focus, niche opticians, specialized physical and occupational therapists, and all sorts of behavioral therapists all take the time to identify and carve out their corner. What’s your clinical calling?

For many providers, finding your focus goes hand in hand with issues you care about. It has to be something you’re willing to dedicate each and every day to. And we’re not just talking about the time you spend with your patients: For true success continuing education in your practice niche is a must. 

If you’re a long-time athlete, then sports vision therapy may be your playing field. If you find fulfillment caring for the elderly, then maybe geriatric optometry is more your speed. There are so many factors to consider that are going to be unique to you and your practice. 

Building around your practice niche

After identifying your niche you have to begin building around it. If you run a niche optical shop catering to a community of seniors, then you don’t need to stock your frame trays with Spongebob Squarepants frames. This extends to more than just the materials you sell and services you offer, though. It comes down to the core of your practice’s goal: What’s your mission statement?

Provide superior eye care to local seniors? Be the premier provider for high-performance athletes? 

From your mission statement you will mold a culture, plan an interior design and train a selectively hired staff. Find people who align with your office values to work at your practice and train them thoroughly in your chosen clinical focus. 

And ensure the aesthetic of the environment you present patients is conducive to your practice niche. For example, as mentioned above, keep the lights low if you serve patients who’ve suffered TBIs. Or if you’re a pediatric optometrist keep children’s games in the waiting room. 

Connecting with your community

All of the above is great, but you’re going to have to communicate it to you’re a community in order to capture new patients—or, if you’re transitioning from a general and/or in-network practice, retain old ones. 

That means email campaigns, PPC ads, updated Google My Business profiles, social media posts, phone calls, specialized scripts—any or all of these channels will help you connect with your target patients. The local advertising channels and techniques that work best for your practice will depend on your practice niche. You might not find many geriatric optometry patients on TikTok, for example. 

With a practice niche you can focus on a specialized segment of the community and one that you truly care about helping. Specialty eye doctors, physical therapists, substance abuse counselors, chiropractors and others can all find substantial success as out-of-network providers with a focus.